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Queen of workplace solutions Featured

11:50am EDT July 25, 2005
Invite Darla King to your office, and she’ll instinctively size it up — she can’t help it, it’s in her blood. King, president of King Business Interiors, has 20 years of experience in the industry, and her passion for transforming office space is unmistakable. Not only is she the queen of workplace solutions, she’s also a jack-of-all-trades.

Tight budget? She’ll find ways to squeeze out maximum efficiency with the perfect furniture. Sick and tired of your work surroundings? King guarantees she can refresh the look and feel of the space. Dreading an office move? Relax. She’ll flawlessly execute a pain-free move. And she’ll do it all while sticking to her mantra — treat the customers like royalty.

Since its inception, her company, with 25 employees, has earned more than $60 million in total sales. As a result of her success, the president of the 7-year-old company was named the 2003 Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year.

But despite this royal flush, she retains her humility, giving credit to her life and work partner and overall “Prince Charming,” husband Dave King, who manages the service end of the business.

“He is a strong person and a big, supportive influence on me,” King says. “His calm nature is an ideal complement to my Type A personality.”

Smart Business spoke with King about her passion and the challenges of instilling a customer service philosophy into her employees.

What is your best advice for business owners?

Don’t wait until you feel 100 percent ready before taking the plunge. I’m inspired by Carol Burnett, who once said, ‘Only I can change my life. Nobody can do it for me.’ You must have a passion for your business. Don’t be intimidated or paralyzed by what you don’t know. Selling and delighting customers is my forte.

Banking, insurance law, tax knowledge are all necessary evils, but well out of my comfort zone. To compensate, I promptly assembled an A-Team of experts who have advised me wisely and saved me a lot of grief.

How do you instill your customer service philosophy into your employees?

Most businesses have service and sales professionals operating in different silos. They are not connected in any meaningful way. It’s really a lack of togetherness — disjointed customer service, blaming, and reduced accountability when service efforts miss the bulls-eye.

King Business Interiors uses a true team approach on each account. We take employees to customers’ facilities as often as possible so that they experience the space first-hand. We know our clients’ pet peeves, history and expectations. Each member of the team can speak confidently and intelligently about our client base, and they are each empowered and responsible to maintain stellar service.

What is the downside of owning your own business?

When employees and customers depend on you to stay on the cutting edge, it can be a heavy burden. When you work for a corporation, you can leave at 5 and let someone else worry about staying current and competitive. Business owners simply do not have this luxury. If you don’t worry about the future, there might not be one.

What challenges does managing a staff pose?

Staff management can be a challenge. I want my staff to really love their jobs. That doesn’t just happen — it takes effort and discipline from management. I use an open-book leadership style. A great book to read is “Great Game of Business” by Jack Staff, which suggests the ultimate higher law.

When you appeal to the highest level of thinking, you get the highest level of performance. In other words, don’t underestimate employees’ desire to understand the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the business. There are no secret management meetings here. Employees are in the game. We want them to think of ways the business can become more profitable. We all benefit when this happens.

How to reach: King Business Interiors, (614) 430-0020